Debian Release Delayed

So the latest release of debian was delayed (and pushed back into possibly 2005) due to some changes in the debian social contract. While I applaud the debian guys for their steadfast determination to let nothing stand in the way of free software, it’s getting a bit nuts. Part of the changes (as I read it) is to now put everything on the CD under the “must be free software rule”, including documentation and images, and hardware code modules. So if you don’t have the source for the docs or image (source .xcf or .psd files?) those have to be provided or that package can’t go into the main directory, it has to go into non-free.

Debian used to be the best, but I shudder at the thought of a newbie installing int. Not for the install experience (I survived it when I was a n00bie thankyouverymuch), but for what they get. Assuming you don’t immediately set yourself up in the testing or unstable branches, and keep the default, you’ll get some very old software.

A quick look shows that the version of gnome in stable is version 1.4.1. This, according to some searches on the net was released sometime in early 2002. So it’s… uhmm… two years old. Mozilla is at 1.0, it was released in June of 2002. So that’s just under two years old. What else would your average every day user use on a day to day basis. Instant messanger? That’d be GAIM 0.58. According to the GAIM changelog it was released in June of 2002, again, just under two years old. Default kernel? 2.2 (I think, there are 2.4 packages in there, but I don’t think it’s the default), originally released in 1999five years ago.

I won’t bother going on. Debian unstable is a different story, but for Joe Average, they’ll install what’s on the CD, which is the stable distro. While the versions that are in here are rock solid and have all relevant security patches installed, the fact that there are packages over two years old in there is a bad representation of the state of open source software. The speed of development and release means that new features and improvements are added fast enough that even the 6 month release cycle that RedHat used to follow was only just right (at least, basing this off the 6 month gnome release cycle).

I love debian, but as many on the mailing list said, delaying the release of debian just means that the same offending software is still there in their currently sold and downloadable distribution, and delaying just means that their users get an even older set of software to install. Six months is a long time in not the open source world, not the software world (well, except for Longhorn), but in the computer world. Lets not even think about what happens in two years.

This isn’t just a theoretical thing, Dana did a debian stable install and came up with some problems with installing a newer kernel (I think) because the software jjust didn’t support it yet, becuase it was written two years before the new kernel came out!

If everyone should “just use testing or unstable” instead of stable, make it the damn default and release testing/unstable as debian 3.whatever it’s at now! My current distro hasn’t always been the most trouble free, but then again, neither was debian (unstable didn’t always hold up to it’s “unstable isn’t” reputation).

I’m still not sure if I should be applauding the Debian guys for sticking to their guns or shake my head and wonder why they are being so anal retentive…